Today was the first time in which we interacted with the people of Botswana as a team of physical therapists, audiologists, and speech language pathologists. Our first site was at the Aerodrome school, which is a school for students with and without disabilities. We screened students with disabilities. As we entered the classroom the students and their families were lined up in chairs and smiling as we entered offering the customary “Dumela,” the Setswana word for hello. We were welcomed by songs and prayers. The songs were beautiful and moving with the first to be consisted of a prayer of forgiveness and the second one joyful in that with Christ all things are possible. We were spoken to by government dignitaries and representatives for the school. We felt the impact that our presence was having before we even started our screening. One of the most important things the speakers mentioned was not only the help we will offer the students and their families, but how the students will help us learn about the culture of Botswana.
We split into three teams with one PT in each team and an amalgamation of either two audiologists in one group and two SLPs in another. In this manner we began to learn how to work as an interdisciplinary team. The variety of impairments we witnessed addressed all three fields. Audiology was able to offer hearing screens and strategies to the parents to help the children with difficulty hearing. Speech was able to help those who were having difficulty communicating both verbal and non-verbal strategies to help the student communicate with the teachers or school. Physical therapy was able to offer exercises for students with difficulty with normal movement patterns and bracing options for students with joint deformities. All three disciplines were able to address impairments in their field. We were honored that the students at the Aerodrome school allowed us to learn from them.
The afternoon was scheduled to be filled with students coming to the Progressive Physiotherapy Clinic. Matilda, the owner of Progressive Physical Therapy, is our contact in Botswana who years ago graduated from Ohio University with a degree in physical therapy. According to Amo, Matilda’s daughter, the early 90’s is when Matilda graduated from Ohio University. Our plan was to see as many students as possible from the school for the deaf in Francistown. Our plan did not go according to plan. Only two students came to the clinic to be seen. The positive in only seeing two students at this clinic is it allowed time for interdisciplinary education between the three disciplines and was valuable to understanding the scope of practice for PT, SLP, and audiologists.
After the clinic we went to the local mall which was across the street from the clinic. The mall was fascinating and filled with people of Botswana. Approximately 50 shops were there including a “Pick n’ Pay” where we purchased groceries. On the 1-mile walk back to our hotel one of our students was proposed to. Indeed, we were a sight out of the ordinary. Imagine 15 people dressed in green, light skinned, and walking down the crowded streets of the second largest city in Botswana.
Overall, it was a fulfilling and edifying day. We concluded the day with a meeting recapping what we learned and sharing. Everyone had a turn to speak and share their perspective on the day. Botswana has many more educational opportunities and opportunities for personal growth.